The Daily Challenge: Focus


Capture that ever-eluding focus.


Block distractions when time blocking your day

Read Time: 3 Minutes

Attention is fleeting. It is a fact that media creators dread, teachers fight, and advertisers embrace. Even the most productive professionals know that it takes time to build focus and a split of a second — to lose it.

Building focus is a multi-faceted process. It means prioritizing the most important tasks, the “big rocks” of your work, and time blocking the day to tackle those “big rocks.” But how are you supposed to stay focused during the time blocked off for deep, concentrated work?

By avoiding distractions during those time blocks.

While it’s easier said than done, staying away from distractions can increase your engagement, motivation, and confidence, and increase happiness about delivering your best work. In turn, being distracted can cause stress and frustration.

Switching from task to task, hearing office noise, and checking smartphones are some of the most common attention drains in the workplace.

When preparing for an upcoming time block, consider using these steps to maximize your focus and keep these (and other) distractions at a minimum.

Step 1: Make your time block long and continuous. Shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time. To reduce the need to recover from distractions, make sure your time block is long enough to complete a good chunk of the task at hand.

Step 2. Find a quiet and distraction-free place to work during your time block.To avoid noise, a big workplace distraction, book a meeting room or go to a phone booth to complete the work requiring deep focus. If this isn’t possible, consider alternatives. For example, some people are less distracted in a noisy cafe than in their noisy office because a cafe’s noise can feel like “white noise”, whereas your office may be full of interesting chatter that is relevant to you

Step 3: Turn off your phone and put it away. Before your scheduled time block starts, make sure you put away one of the biggest sources of distractions in a modern work environment. Research shows that switching off your phone is not enough: a mere presence of a gadget takes up some of your cognitive capacity since you constantly have an opportunity to switch your attention.

Pro-tip: Actually schedule it. Put the time block you scheduled for yourself on the calendar so your coworkers can see it. This will help them to know the best time to reach out to you or schedule a meeting with you.

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